Yelling “Toy Guns” on a Crowded Facebook Page

From an East Haven, Ct. Police Department press release:

On October 22, 2013, Angelo Appi (DOB 1-3-1967) turned himself into the East Haven Police Department on an arrest warrant charging him with Breach of Peace in the Second Degree.

The arrest warrant originated from an incident that took place the previous day in which Appi allegedly posted on Facebook the following message “Maybe I have to walk in with Toy guns just to prove a point!”

The comments were regarding Joseph Melillo Middle School in which Appi has previously pointed out what he believes are lapses in security at the school.

The Facebook posting prompted over fifty calls to the middle school from parents concerned about the message.

According to the Principal at Joseph Melillo Middle School, more than double the number of students called out of school the day following the incident than those that call out on a typical day.

While Mr. Appi stated that he believes it is his First Amendment right to free speech to comment, the right to free speech is not absolute as indicated by U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

The comment made by Mr. Appi is not protected speech and is akin to yelling “fire” in a crowded theater or “bomb” in an airport when no such threat exits. Mr. Appi’s comments caused alarm and concern for a significant number of parents whose children attend Joseph Melillo Middle School.

Mr. Appi has a court date of October 30, 2013 at New Haven Superior Court.

This strikes me as ridiculous, and clearly unconstitutional. As the New Haven Register reports (see also here), Appi has indeed been pointing to lapses in school security, and made the “maybe I have to walk in with Toy guns just to prove a point” comment (apparently without the exclamation point) to express his frustration with the school not taking security seriously. He wasn’t threatening to attack anyone. He wasn’t threatening to illegally bring a gun anywhere. He wasn’t even expressly threatening to bring a toy gun anywhere — but if he was, then it’s at most a conditional threat that “maybe” he might bring a toy gun somewhere. Even if this is enough to justify the police investigating Appi and his intentions, it can’t justify prosecuting him for his speech.